Protesters block roads to demand Israel accept ceasefire-hostage deal, halt Rafah push

After Israel rejects Hamas terms, families of captives and other demonstrators gather in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and elsewhere, accuse Netanyahu of ‘abandoning the hostages’

Relatives and supporters of hostages taken captive by Hamas on October 7 hold placards and wave flags during a demonstration calling for their release, Tel Aviv, May 6, 2024. (Oren Ziv/AFPTV/AFP)

Angry protests erupted in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem late Monday as families of hostages held in Gaza and anti-government activists calling for a deal to free the captives took to the streets to rally against the government’s rejection of a Hamas ceasefire offer.

Police forces twice dispersed hundreds of protesters blocking traffic on Tel Aviv’s Ayalon highway, with demonstrators banging drums, blowing on bullhorns, and lighting fires.

“The time has come to take the deal. The time has come for a ceasefire,” Einav Zangauker, mother of hostage Matan Zangauker, yelled into a bullhorn from the roof of a car stopped on the highway. “We won’t let them pass up the chance tonight.”

Activists also blocked Begin Road outside the main entrance to the Defense Ministry. Dozens were still gathered nearby after midnight, holding pictures of the 128 captives kidnapped on October 7 remaining in Gaza, some of whom are no longer alive.

Several banners referenced Holocaust Remembrance Day, marked in Israel on Sunday night and Monday, with one reading, “Never Again?”

There was no statement from police on arrests, but a number of people were seen being detained.

The protests were galvanized after Hamas said it had accepted a ceasefire proposal Monday. Jerusalem swiftly rejected the terms, saying they were far from meeting “Israel’s essential demands,” though negotiators were set to leave for Cairo on Tuesday to continue talks.

At the same time, the war cabinet decided unanimously to push ahead with an offensive into the southern Gaza city of Rafah, despite warnings that the move could jeopardize the chances for a deal.

The Prime Minister’s Office said the long-waited operation was being launched to pile pressure on Hamas “with the goal of making progress on freeing the hostages and the other war aims.”

Police detain a protester during a demonstration by relatives and supporters of hostages held captive by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza since the October 7 attacks, Tel Aviv, May 6, 2024. (Jack Guez/AFP)

In Jerusalem, hundreds of protesters calling for an immediate hostage release deal gathered outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence, joining hundreds more demonstrators protesting the Rafah offensive in Jerusalem’s Paris Square.

“Bibi is abandoning the hostages!” the demonstrators shouted, using the prime minister’s nickname.‎

Protests were also reported in other Israeli cities, including Ra’anana, Beersheba, and Haifa.

Demonstrators protest calling for the release of hostages held by terror groups in the Gaza Strip, near the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem, May 6, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Elan Siegel, whose father Keith Siegel was taken hostage by Hamas on October 7, thanked the Jerusalem demonstrators and said she was sure that her father could “hear the noise and energy from the tunnels in Gaza.”

‎‏”He will surely return, they all will… We won’t be silent until they return,” she said.

‎‏Elan Siegel, whose father Keith Siegel has been held hostage in Gaza since October 7, addresses the crowd at a protest demanding the government close a hostage deal, Jerusalem’s Paris Square on May 6, 2024. (Charlie Summers/Times of Israel)

Responding to Hamas’s claim that it had accepted a ceasefire deal, the Hostage Families Forum demanded that Israel seize the “opportunity” to strike a deal for the return of all the captives held since October 7, when some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 252 hostages amid acts of brutality and sexual assault.

The terror group’s announcement “must pave the way for the return of the… hostages held captive by Hamas for the past seven months,” the group said in a statement, insisting that “now is the time for all that are involved to fulfill their commitment and turn this opportunity into a deal for the return of all the hostages.”

It is believed that 128 of the hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November, and four hostages were released prior to that. Three hostages have been rescued by troops alive, and the bodies of 12 hostages have also been recovered, including three mistakenly killed by the military. The IDF has confirmed the deaths of 35 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.

One more person is listed as missing since October 7, and their fate is still unknown.

Hamas has also been holding the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014, as well as two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are both thought to be alive after entering the Strip of their own accord in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

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